Anyone born after 1995 is probably wondering why the Internet is excited about Eddie Murphy returning to 30 Rock for Saturday Night Live’s upcoming 40th anniversary special. “Why would SNL want the guy from Norbit and Pluto Nash there?” But there was a time, boys and girls, when the former Not Ready For Prime Time Player was the biggest star on this here spinning orb. Buckwheat, Gumby, Mr. Robinson, Eddie Murphy: Raw, Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places, 48 Hrs. Those last two films premiered while Murphy was still an SNL cast member and raked in $188 million and $207 million, respectively, when adjusted for inflation.
Murphy, who joined SNL at age 19 during the turbulent and eventually disastrous Jean Doumanian year and became a star during Dick Ebersol’s tenure, left the show after four seasons and hasn’t stepped foot in Studio 8H stage since hosting in December 1984. The now-megastar — Murphy was there to promote Beverly Hills Cop, which earned $518 goddamn million in today dollars — made his final appearance a memorable one, starring in the classic “White Like Me” sketch that featured a makeup-adorned Murphy going undercover to see how Caucasians live. “White Like Me” remains a biting, hysterical examination of race relations more than 30 years after its original airing.
And that was it. Despite the occasional guest appearance rumors that cropped up whenever his films hit theaters, Murphy didn’t appear on SNL again and ended his run without ever working under Lorne Michaels. His apparent disdain for everything SNL is so extreme that he’s one of the few living cast members who refused to speak with Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller for their absurdly comprehensive oral history, Live From New York.
Time seems to have erased whatever slights Murphy held against toward the show that made him one of the most recognizable faces in entertainment. “It’s just timing,” Murphy told News One. “It just never worked out where the timing was right for me to do it. They’re actually having a 40th anniversary I think in two weeks. I’m going to that, and that’ll be the first time I’ve been back since I left.”
Oh. Ok then. See ya there.
The Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary special airs February 15th on NBC.